Some novels have one character who's so strong, commanding, and charismatic that no other character in the book stands a chance. And that's the excitement (the disappointment too) of Lindner's fiction debut--in which she tries to create a relationship between a colossus and a shrimp. The colossus is Julio Bravo, a Puerto Rican armed-robber from the South Bronx. The shrimp is Dolores, a 32-year-old hack writer and poet who meets Julio while teaching a writing seminar in an upstate New York prison. Then, when Julio is paroled, he heads straight for Dolores; and she, despite startlingly racist warnings by her hip Soho friends, lets herself be a very willing target. Few people, in fact, would find it easy to resist Julio and his romantic, macho, manipulative con-monologues. So, for Dolores--who's passive, self-destructive, fairly nitwitty--it's all but impossible. And Julio's stories (of shootings, beatings, rip-offs) come to seem, in Dolores' eyes, not just ""the blithe adventures of an errant knight, but demanding visions that had broken away from their past moorings and floated into the present."" She even takes an insanely unwise subway trip to the South Bronx at four in the morning to look for Julio after he stops coming around for a while--in a scene that highlights the two-different-worlds grotesquerie. Likewise, from the other odd-couple angle, there's the scene in which Julio attends the circumcision, the bris, of the son of Dolores' friend: ""How can that baby's own mare and pap do that to him? What is that poor sucker going to say when he is growed and looks at his johnson? He is going to say 'Fuck it, my man. I did not have no choice about that.' Some bad plexes are going to come down in that little boy's head behind that."" Unfortunately, however, this hilarious sequence is the only one to show Julio at a loss in Dolores' world. The rest of the novel concentrates instead on Dolores' reactions--until she finally runs away from Julio's dangerous attraction, going home to mother. And since Dolores is so much less interesting than Julio, the novel tilts badly. Still, Lindner's portrayal of Julio is faultless, compelling--and just enough reason to keep reading, even when this first novel falters.